In the sun, on the desert hardpan, we set
our brushes twitching
to uncover the chips scattered across what
had once been a temple.
Nine gates opened in the wind, nine gates
no longer visible.
Soon, someone found the broken tibia, the
net of bones
we recognized as human and my own brush
the crumbled attar of the grave.
Dust rose up. A shape announced itself
Inside the cracked bowl of a pelvis my mind
sketched in a face,
a thing carried there that met the world
with its wet and blood-tender
head. The sun sent down its burning sentence,
even and ill-willed
as we disturbed the sleeping mother I begged
this intrusion. Though my question would
be answered with decay.
This landscape you describe?
the one of green hills broken
by the diligence of farmers
you carry it in your head?
Or does it come to you
onlywhen you are sleeping?
Me, I have chosen to be urban
Chosen to restrict that
to the changing wind of memory
I was born there
in a bucolic place
But it is a fantasy of those
for whom the rural is a destination
As a child I was taken in a boat
out onto the river
Small fish rose to the surface
The boat's motor when it cut out
made the other sounds large
We drifted toward an island
separated from the banks by a channel
Drifted in the shade provided
by a canopy of trees
But soon we noticed them
cutting their S's in the brown water
slipping their dry lengths
over green branches Black
and airless they took things from us
took the small breaths
from our tightening chests
But it was more than that
Their eyes held no light
The snakes hanging from the canopy
into the water around us
divided the world in half
The vision you have
in your head
is far superior than the actual place
which is not capable of giving you
what you always wanted
because married to the actual place
is the perpetual need for bravery
while memory's dark water is troubled
by a limbless, muscular body
that comes to you
even in your dreams
Ghost, I keep you tethered
in the shadow of my heart, tied to the tree
of my ambition.
I have searched theaters of the flesh
for your imagined face, and found you
among the boy whores working the carpeted
of the cinema, or at the beach in late summer
tanned thighs slipping from a sarong, urging
me to compare you
to the heraldic figures.
You, my sweet invented one, I have loved
more cleanly and with greater cruelty
than any actual suitor, to whom
I offered questions,
fed breakfast, or drove home in my car.
I wander the empty house (memory).
You appear to me stock-still
in the snow-covered corn, guarding
what I have inflicted upon you.
I beg your forgiveness. I who invented you,
I brought you here to illustrate
my own sense of having once been shattered,
then destroyed you to show the world
I intended to be whole.